Greasemonkey is a Firefox extension which lets users add “user scripts” (DHTML, technically) to any web page. These scripts can change any aspect of a web page’s behaviour, interaction, or design. This little baby is going to blow up business models. Let’s look at some examples.
Greasemonkey can insert prices from competitive booksellers right into Amazon.
Greasemonkey can add persistent searches to Gmail with such transparency that you forget Google doesn’t provide this feature.
Greasemonkey can integrate links to your local library’s card catalog right into Amazon.
Greasemonkey can reduce the friction to using vertical search sites by automatically running vertical searches based on the context of your current web page.
Greasemonkey can put links to BitTorrent movies inside Netflix or Amazon (no I am not advocating that you should steal content, I’m making a point about how easily Greasemonkey can blow up an existing business model).
The right metaphor
Greasemonkey lets you mash-up websites. It lets you extend and script websites and integrate that script right into the original site as if the designers had intended it to be there. It lets you use their web site, their data, their servers, their work to serve your purpose and function. There will soon be an army of hackers enhancing every site you use. Whether that site likes it or not.
I am still struggling to find the right metaphor to describe the power of Greasemonkey. Here’s a try:
Object-oriented inheritance lets programmers re-purpose and extend the functionality of existing programs. Programmers can build powerful new programs very quickly with inheritance. The most advanced operating system in the world earned that title for a reason. The inheritance metaphor is probably accurate — but not very appealing to the layman. Here’s another try:
Greasemonkey is to the deep web what hypertext is to documents.
Hypertext allows us to connect specific text in one document to text in another document. Greasemonkey allows us to connect a page from the deep web to another page on the deep web. Deep web pages are created dynamically from database queries. So, Greasemonkey is, in a sense, hypertext for databases.
First, browsers that don’t support Greasemonkey are going to lose marketshare as “must-have” Greasemonkey scripts roll out.
Second, someone is going to get sued. How happy is Netflix going to be when I use their site to download TV shows from BitTorrent trackers? And how are they going to stop me? Sue the guy that made the Greasemonkey script? Block my IP address from using Netflix?
Third, there will be those who embrace the competition that Greasemonkey is going to bring to their business model. They will use Greasemonkey to enhance the strength of their brand and increase marketshare. Companies like Amazon who have open APIs come to mind.
Fourth, Greasemonkey will have to be designed to scale. Right now, to use Greasemonkey
You need to install Firefox. We need Greasemonkey across all the major browsers.
You need to install the Greasemonkey extension. This isn’t too hard but already there is a Greasemonkey compiler that can compile a script into a stand-alone Firefox extension. With this compiler, script designers won’t have to tell their customers that they need to install Greasemonkey anymore.
You need to install the specific script you want to use. This doesn’t scale well. Greasemonkey could be modified to ping a clearinghouse for scripts that are relevant to the site you’re on. Perhaps with UDDI.
Greasemonkey: This isn’t your dad’s http.
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